EPA Proposes First PFAS Drinking Water Standard


The Biden-Harris Administration recently announced a proposal for the first-ever national drinking water standard for six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The action builds on President Joe Biden’s plan to combat PFAS pollution, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap.

According to the announcement, the EPA is leveraging the latest science and complementing state efforts to limit PFAS by proposing to establish legally enforceable levels for six PFAS known to occur in drinking water.

Proposed Standard

The proposal, if finalized, would reportedly regulate PFOA and PFOS as individual contaminants, and will regulate four other PFAS—PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS and GenX Chemicals—as a mixture. Specifically, this would include:  

  • PFOA and PFOS: EPA is proposing to regulate PFOA and PFOS at a level they can be reliably measured at 4 parts per trillion.
  • PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and GenX Chemicals: EPA is also proposing a regulation to limit any mixture containing one or more of PFNA, PFHxS, PFBS, and/or GenX Chemicals. For these PFAS, water systems would use an established approach called a hazard index calculation, defined in the proposed rule, to determine if the combined levels of these PFAS pose a potential risk.

Additionally, the proposed regulation would require public water systems to monitor for these chemicals, as well as require systems to notify the public and reduce PFAS contamination if levels exceed the proposed regulatory standards.

“Communities across this country have suffered far too long from the ever-present threat of PFAS pollution. That’s why President Biden launched a whole-of-government approach to aggressively confront these harmful chemicals, and EPA is leading the way forward,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.

“EPA’s proposal to establish a national standard for PFAS in drinking water is informed by the best available science, and would help provide states with the guidance they need to make decisions that best protect their communities. This action has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of PFAS-related illnesses and marks a major step toward safeguarding all our communities from these dangerous contaminants.”

The EPA says that it anticipates over time, the rule would prevent thousands of deaths and reduce tens of thousands of serious PFAS-attributable illnesses. PFAS can cause serious health problems, including cancer, if people are exposed to them over a long period of time.

The EPA is requesting input from all stakeholders, including the public, water system managers, and public health professionals. Comments may be submitted through the public docket, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2022-0114.

PFAS Strategic Roadmap

In October 2021, Regan announced the creation of the Agency’s PFAS Strategic Roadmap to address contamination regarding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.

The PFAS Strategic Roadmap officially sets a series of timelines for the EPA to take specific actions and set bolder policies regarding PFAS. In addition, the plan also pledges to conduct more research and testing on hundreds of other PFAS, potentially listing additional compounds as hazardous substances in the future to better safeguard public health, protect the environment and hold polluters accountable.

By 2023, the roadmap aims to set a final rule for PFOS and PFOA regulation in drinking water and will designate two compounds as hazardous substances. That same year, the Agency intends to provide updated research on the available methods for disposing of or destroying PFAS through landfills, thermal treatment and deep-well injection.

EPA’s integrated approach to PFAS is focused on three central directives:

  • Research - Invest in research, development and innovation to increase understanding of PFAS exposures and toxicities, human health and ecological effects, and effective interventions that incorporate the best available science;
  • Restrict - Pursue a comprehensive approach to proactively prevent PFAS from entering air, land and water at levels that can adversely impact human health and the environment; and
  • Remediate - Broaden and accelerate the human health and ecological systems.

A full copy of the PFAS Strategic Roadmap can be viewed here.

In more recent actions, in November last year, the EPA published its Final Fifth Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List (CCL 5), including an expansion of PFAS. This list will serve as the basis for the EPA’s regulatory considerations over the next five-year cycle under the Safe Drinking Water Act. 

The EPA reports that the update is an important first step towards identifying additional PFAS that may require regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act since publishing the PFAS Strategic Roadmap a year ago. Additionally, the announcement strengthens its commitment to protect public health from impacts of PFAS and support the Agency’s decision-making for potential future regulations of PFAS.

The Final CCL 5 includes 66 chemicals, three chemical groups (PFAS, cyanotoxins and disinfection byproducts [DBPs]), and 12 microbes, which were selected from a universe of chemicals used in commerce, pesticides, biological toxins, disinfection byproducts and waterborne pathogens.

According to the release, in developing the Final CCL 5, the EPA requested public nominations, providing an opportunity for people to make recommendations to the Agency about specific contaminants of concern that may disproportionally affect their local community. 

The process was then enhanced based on the comments received by prioritizing data most relevant to drinking water exposure, improving considerations of sensitive populations including children, and considering the recommendations included in the Review of the EPA’s Draft Fifth CCL 5 report from the Science Advisory Board. 

A full list of chemical contaminants in the CCL 5 can be found here.


Tagged categories: Construction chemicals; Environmental Controls; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); EPA; Government; hazardous materials; Hazards; Health & Safety; Health and safety; NA; North America; potable water; President Biden; Program/Project Management; Regulations; Water/Wastewater

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